Average Hammersmith & Fulham Council Tax Bill to Rise By £80

Council makes maximum increase due to challenging circumstances

A referendum would have been required for a higher increase

March 2, 2024

Hammersmith and Fulham residents will pay on average an additional £80.77 in council tax for the year ahead, with the council voting to implement the largest possible hike without a referendum. The council says the move is necessary to deliver a balanced budget, amid what the leader described as ‘the most challenging of circumstances’.

The increase means the average Band D property in the borough will be liable to pay £1,386.77 a year, including the Greater London Authority (GLA) precept. This remains among the lowest in the country, and significantly less than the likes of Havering and Brent, both of which are north of £2,000. An estimated 42% of Hammersmith and Fulham residents receive discounts via the Council Tax Support Scheme.

At a Full Council meeting last Wednesday night (28 February), the Labour administration’s leader, Stephen Cowan, spoke at length of the financial challenges facing local authorities across the country. The total spend proposed for the 2024/25 revenue budget is £128m compared to £164m in 2010, a cut he largely put at the feet of reductions to funding from the Government.

Despite such pressures, Cllr Cowan said the local authority had managed to set its budget without affecting frontline services. Cllr Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler, leader of the Conservative opposition, however described the proposal as one ‘which could have been good but is merely adequate’, attacking the administration’s record on issues ranging from housing to the Clean Air Neighbourhood (CAN) trial, as well as its decision to increase the council tax and adult social care precept by a combined 4.99% for 2024/25.

In a report detailing the plans, the local authority outlined how it is looking to pump £10.7 million additional funding into services from adult social care to environmental work, while recouping £8.1m from a combination of savings and new income.

These include via reforms such as using digital technology more effectively to support social care services, and the introduction of a new paid-for garden waste service, expected to bring in £650,000 a year.

Commenting on the much-publicised difficulties facing councils, Cllr Cowan told the chamber, “You see it when you travel around our country. You see roads speckled with potholes, your car bucks along realising they haven’t been done up for 10, maybe 20 years. You see young people with nothing to do, waiting for opportunities. You see schools making do with teachers once again bringing in books to help their kids learn to read and other technical equipment. You see elderly and disabled people, home alone without care, often suffering end of life diseases such as dementia, and left, the very epitome of an uncivilised approach is to leave the most vulnerable, vulnerable.”

Cllr Brocklebank-Fowler pushed back on the council’s positioning as a ‘compassionate’ local authority, describing the combined tax and adult social care precept hike as a ‘choice’, and questioned the robustness of its departmental savings.

On the environment budget, which is due for cuts/new income of £1.5m, Cllr Brocklebank-Fowler accused the council of ‘hammering businesses’, with charges for waste collection up 10% and hiring a 660 litre bin up 46%. On bulky waste collections, she said, “This is a vital service, particularly for those residents without a car, which you really seem to wish we all were, and therefore unable to drive to the dump. Charges are being raised up 50%. What on earth do you think is going to happen? Well I’ll answer that for you; more fly-tipping.”

A £576.4m package of capital funding over the next four years was also put before the council. £432.9m is to go to its Housing Capital Programme, which includes repairs and decarbonising estates. Hammersmith Bridge, which has been shut to motor vehicles since 2019, is to have almost £9m spent on stabilisation and pre-restoration works, while the Civic Campus Project is also to be among the initiatives allocated funding, including £20m for the town hall refurbishment.

All of the above measures were passed, with Labour councillors voting for and the Conservatives against the proposals.

Ben Lynch - Local Democracy Reporter